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More migrant rough sleepers face deportation

July 12 2017
The Home Office is threatening to arrest and deport people sleeping on the streets of Edinburgh

Campaigners have raised serious concerns as it emerges that the Home Office is now threatening to arrest and deport homeless people sleeping on the streets of Edinburgh.

Home Office enforcement teams have been involved in street patrols in recent weeks, informing EU migrants sleeping rough that they are “misusing” their freedom of movement rights and should return to their countries of origin.

If they do not accept the offer of “voluntary” return, they will be arrested and deported.

All citizens of the EU are assumed to have free movement across the European Economic Area (EEA) and have the “right to reside” for three months. After that, they must prove they are self-sufficient to stay.

However, in May 2016 the UK Government became the only EU government to interpret rough sleeping as an “abuse” of the right to freedom of movement. Other abuses include sham marriage and documents forgery.

Last year there were dozens of joint local authority/Home Office operations across London, with eight of them resulting in 133 rough sleepers being detained. Recent research by Corporate Watch revealed homeless charities passed information on vulnerable rough sleepers to the Home Office teams.

Patrols have also taken place in other cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Jan Williams, head of operations at Streetwork, which does outreach work in the Edinburgh, said: “The Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement department has made us aware that they are working in the Edinburgh area.” She is worried that removing people, even under “voluntary” schemes, will leave people vulnerable and put them at risk of harm.

Fizza Qureshi, director of the Migrant Rights Network, said that the development was “incredibly concerning”.

“It is being enforced without any sort of real insight into the background or situation of people on found on the streets,” she added.

According to Jean Demars, a researcher at Goldsmiths University and former head of housing at London-based migrant charity Praxis, homeless migrants have been deported for around seven years in London. This has increased dramatically since May last year.

He claims arrests and deportations could be legally challenged and is working with lawyers and migrant groups to bring forward test cases.

The Home Office confirmed it would take action against EEA nationals sleeping rough who “refused” to find “alternative accommodation”.

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